Gaining popularity through its injection into pop culture is the profile of the sex and love addict, with portrayals of support groups featuring in such shows as Amazon’s Transparent and Netflix’s Love. When Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual assault by a significant number of women it was reported that he went to rehab for sex addiction. This move was met with scepticism as it problematically suggests that sex addiction causes or is a prerequisite to predatory behaviour. Moving away from Hollywood I attempt to bring this narrative home.
Like a finger traces the outlines of roads on a map, I retrace my, (her)story. From my earliest memories of liking someone, something has always been rather… out of place. I have since this time suffered from love addiction. And that sounds crazy to say that this primary school girl is a love addict, but I know it to be the truth. As I got older I added another addiction to my list of insecurities, sex addiction. For an incredibly long time, I was not aware of the fact that I was a sex and love addict but knew that I felt shame in relation to my romantic life which had a tendency to be messy if not toxic in nature. So, what’s the difference between sex and love addiction? – love and sex addiction are both classified as intimacy disorders.
A typical sex addict will latch themselves onto sexual acts rather than people. A sex addict’s relatability styles are aloof, detached and avoidant.
The criteria for sex addiction include:
- A preoccupation with sexual acts or activities related to preparing for them.
- Excessive amounts of time spent trying to have sex with someone, having sex, or recovering from sexual encounters.
- A need to heighten the intensity, regularity, number of times or level of risky behaviours to reach the effect desired.
- Feeling distressed, anxious or irritable when unable to engage in sexual behaviours.
A love addict’s compulsive behaviours tend to be related to romantic experiences. It is labile with a “come-here/go-away” emotional charge infiltrating such an individual’s often times chaotic relationships.
The criteria for love addiction include:
- An inability to stop seeing toxic people.
- Getting high off of romance.
- Using relationships as a way to cope with or escape life’s difficulties.
- Experiencing desperation or feelings of unease when separated from your lover or sexual partner.
Netflix’s Love became the start of my journey to recovery. Mickey, the female character of this romantic comedy which is said to be “a down to earth look at relationships”, was me/is me. She was so great but always made the wrong choices in her love life. She was in recovery in a SLAA (Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous) group and her choices and actions very much reflected my personal behaviour.
After watching the series, I decided to look into this thing, was I really a sex and love addict? I typed SLAA into Google and accessed the support group’s home page. On the site, there was a questionnaire which you are prompted to answer for yourself to find out if SLAA is for you. Some of the questions include:
1.) Have you ever tried to control how much sex to have or how often you would see someone?
2.) Do you find yourself unable to stop seeing a specific person even though you know that seeing this person is destructive to you?
3.) Do you feel that you don’t want anyone to know about your sexual or romantic activities? Do you feel you need to hide these activities from others – friends, family, co-workers, counselors, etc.?
4.) Do you get “high” from sex and/or romance? Do you crash?
After answering ‘yes’ to the majority of the 40 questions of the questionnaire my suspicions of having the disorder were confirmed – I was and still am a sex and love addict. SLAA is a 12-step programme founded in 1976 by members of Alcoholics Anonymous and includes many of the same tiers to recovery such as: admit that you have a problem, find a sponsor, follow the 12-step guide and work towards sobriety. Sobriety for sex and love addicts is not simple to define and depends on the individual. As Jennifer Swan explains in her article on sex and love addiction: For some, it means not using dating apps such as Tinder or abstaining from sex outside of a committed relationship; for others, it’s about getting out of a toxic one.
Sex addiction is a controversial idea and is a clinical diagnosis that is not recognized by institutions such as the American Psychiatric Association and psychologists such as David Ley who has gone as far as to write a book titled The Myth of Sex Addiction disputing the entire matter. In 2017, Swan writes that there are “in Los Angeles alone, more than 60 different weekly meetings, including two at a men’s jail.” Which is all well and great, yes people give a fuck internationally great, great really. In South Africa, the situation is much more dire with a SINGLE meeting being held in Cape Town. Sure, there are online chat rooms…I don’t know about you but I would like to speak to people in person about these matters.
It is incredibly challenging, I can tell you that to suffer from sex and love addiction and it has always had an impact on my relationships. From seeing more than one person at a time, to loving too quickly, running away with notions of love and even pushing away those who love me. The most difficult part is being honest and open about it as I feel that people judge it as a character or moral flaw when it is, in fact, a real addiction that many people struggle with. With little support in South Africa, it is hard to know where to turn.
If you think you might be a sex and/or love addict might I suggest doing the questionnaire on SLAA’s website. I am interested in starting a support group in Johannesburg. Please feel free to reach out. Everyone needs a helping hand.